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Keeling Pilaro now competing against boys

Keeling Pilaro taking the field with Team USA

Keeling Pilaro taking the field with Team USA for a field hockey tournament in Moorpark, Ca (Nov. 28, 2012) (Credit: Handout)

Field hockey season continues for Keeling Pilaro. Two weeks after helping lead Southampton to the state Class C final, the 14-year-old is facing international competition as a member of Team USA's Under-17 men's squad.

Pilaro was invited to join the team after performing in clinics and showcase tournaments last summer.

The U-17 team is hosting Canada for a three-game series in Moorpark, Ca. that will continue through Sunday.

“For a number of players, this series will be their first opportunity to represent their country and wear the red, white and blue,” Team USA coach Chris Clements said. "We're looking to increase the player base across the country and develop players earlier at the international level in the coming years."

As you may already know, Pilaro, for almost a year now, has been the subject of an ongoing controversy regarding his being eligible to play on Southampton's girls varsity team.

(Here’s a quick recap for anyone who hasn't heard the story. Although I doubt anyone reading this field hockey blog hasn't already read the following ad nauseam.)

Pilaro was born in Long Island but grew up in Ireland, where field hockey is a popular men's sport. His family moved back to Southampton in 2010 and, upon being evaluated by Section XI's mixed-competition committee, he was given permission to play on Southampton's junior varsity team. By rule, a boy is allowed to compete on a girls team in New York, so long as he "doesn't adversely affect the girls’ opportunities to play and succeed." It was determined then that Pilaro's size (4-6, 82 pounds) wouldn't give him an unfair physical advantage against most opponents.

He was approved again in 2011 before a promotion to varsity as an eighth-grader. The midfielder went on to score 21 points, 11th most in Long Island but, as a result, was denied permission to compete this fall on the grounds that his advanced skills had an adverse effect. That ruling was appealed and overturned in May.

Pilaro, who is now 4-10, had four goals and eight assists this season, but his team went on to win its first Long Island championship since 2003. They lost 7-0 to Greene in the state final. Should Pilaro attempt to play for his high school next season, he would be evaluated again by Section XI.

USA Field Hockey executive director Steve Locke had told Newsday in April that he supports Pilaro playing for Southampton.

"We've had our Under-17 boys teams play collegiate women’s teams for training purposes, so it's a mixed bag on how it should be regulated," he said. "In his case, I would tend to look at it like this: If he's not overpowering or posing a danger, and he's out-finessing some of the girls, him competing might be good for the game. It's good to have someone there of that quality because [opponents] can learn from him."

Tags: field hockey , Keeling Pilaro , Team USA , USA Field Hockey , Southampton

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